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Russia-Europe Mars Mission Postponed to 2022, Partly Over COVID-19 Fears

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A joint Russian-European mission to Mars has been postponed for two years, the Russian and European space agencies said Thursday, citing the novel coronavirus and technical issues.

“We have made a difficult but well-weighed decision to postpone the launch to 2022,” said Dmitry Rogozin, head of Russia’s Roscosmos agency.

The unmanned ExoMars mission aims to place a robot on the Red Planet to find out whether life is present.

It was scheduled to launch later this year after experiencing several delays.

Officials at the European and Russian spaces agencies said they agreed to delay the mission until August or September 2022 to carry out further tests.

Following recommendations by European and Russian inspectors, “ExoMars experts concluded that the tests necessary to make all the components of the spacecraft for the Mars adventure need more time to complete,” the statement said.

European Space Agency director general Jan Wörner said both sides wanted to be “100 percent” sure of a successful mission.

“We cannot allow ourselves any margin of error. More verification activities will ensure a safe trip and the best scientific results on Mars,” he said in a statement that did not mention the virus.

Rogozin specifically pointed to the impact of the outbreak of the coronavirus in Europe saying the “exacerbation of the epidemiological” situation had hampered the scheduled launch.

The Mars mission has been marred by a series of technical problems and delays.

In August last year, the ESA identified problems with the mission’s parachute system, raising questions over whether the launch would go ahead in 2020.

© Agence France-Presse

Internet

MGM Resorts Hack Exposes Personal Data of 10 Million Hotel Guests

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A server holding personal information about guests who previously stayed at MGM Resorts properties was hacked last summer, the company said.

Leaked data included names, home addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers. The leak does not appear to have resulted in the loss of guests’ financial details. A spokesperson for the company declined to confirm the exact number of people believed to be impacted.

Technology website ZDNet, which first disclosed the hack on Wednesday, reported the trove of files had contained more than 10 million entries. ZDNet reported the stolen files had recently surfaced for sale on a hacking forum.

An MGM Resorts spokesperson told Newsweek the server “contained a limited amount of information for certain previous guests of MGM Resorts.”

The firm downplayed the scale of the breach, noting the data was messy and had included a significant number of duplicate records. It claimed some of the information was an easily-accessible “phonebook.” The MGM spokesperson told Newsweek all impacted guests had been informed per state laws, which do not always require notification for leaks of publicly-available phonebook-style data.

“We are confident that no financial, payment card or password data was involved in this matter,” the official statement added. “MGM Resorts promptly notified guests potentially impacted by this incident in accordance with applicable state laws.

“Upon discovering the issue, the company retained two leading cybersecurity forensics firms to assist with its internal investigation, review and remediation of the issue.

“At MGM Resorts, we take our responsibility to protect guest data very seriously, and we have strengthened and enhanced the security of our network to prevent this from happening again.”

The hotel company, which operates hotels including the Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, and MGM Grand in Las Vegas, declined to comment on the suggestion the leak had included information celebrities and government employees. NBC News, which reached out to more than a dozen people on the list to verify that the posted personal information was accurate, reported the data appeared legitimate if old.

It remains unclear which hotels were included in the leaked files. The company asserted that just because a celebrity name appeared in an email address doesn’t mean it is that person.

The scope of the breach, if estimates are accurate, does not compare to the hacking of hotel chain Marriott, which confirmed in November 2018 that the information of approximately 500 million guests was compromised after one of its guest reservation databases was infiltrated.

In December 2018, Reuters first reported hackers suspected of being responsible for the incident appeared to have been tied to a “Chinese government intelligence gathering operation.”

China-aligned hackers have long been linked to covert cyberattacks on U.S. government systems, including a major intrusion of the Office of Personnel Management back in 2014.

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NASA

NASA eyes new missions for Venus, moons of Jupiter, Neptune

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Washington, Feb 15 (SocialNews.XYZ) NASA is funding studies that aim to understand more about Venus, Jupiter’s moon Io and a unique and highly active icy moon of Neptune, Triton.

These selected studies will develop concept studies for new missions.

Although they are not official missions yet and some ultimately may not be chosen to move forward, the selections focus on compelling targets and science that are not covered by NASA’s active missions or recent selections, the US space agency said on Friday.

“These selected missions have the potential to transform our understanding of some of the solar system’s most active and complex worlds,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

“Exploring any one of these celestial bodies will help unlock the secrets of how it, and others like it, came to be in the cosmos,” Zurbuchen added.

The four investigations were selected as part of NASA’s Discovery Programme that invites scientists and engineers to assemble a team to design exciting planetary science missions that deepen what we know about the solar system and our place in it.

Each of the four nine-month studies will receive $3 million to develop and mature concepts and will conclude with a concept study report, NASA said.

After evaluating the concept studies, NASA will continue development of up to two missions towards flight.

Two of these investigations target Venus.

Source: IANS

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